Five Myths Of Africa
To the ‘First World’, Africa - the ‘Dark Continent’ - has traditionally been regarded with a mixture of fear, intrigue, romanticism and disdain. Due to the fact that western society learned about Africa through the blinkered and biased views of colonization, it is unsurprising that to this day many people, even those living within the more developed parts of Africa itself, are highly ignorant of the African continent, its people, its geography and its heritage.
Many myths have been created and perpetuated about Africa, and here we will challenge 5 of these mostly widely held myths of this fascinating, complex continent.
Myth One - Race: All Africans are black.
False. While many African people may be considered ‘black’ by certain cultures e.g. America where the term is used in its broadest sense, not everyone uses this terminology including some Africans themselves. Although there is a growing trend among dark skinned South Africans to refer to themselves as black rather than using traditional, more specific terminology, this is by no means the standard.
According to Pier M. Larson of the Johns Hopkins University, “Africans come in a wide variety of skin colors and physical types that many Africans find significant among themselves… Africans range from an almost dark blue-black skin color to a very light skin color that would "pass" in the United States as socially white.”
Furthermore we cannot exclude the many Africans whose ancestors immigrated from Asia, Europe etc. When generations of a person’s ancestors have been born in Africa it is insulting for them to be seen as not African purely because they do not have black skin.
Myth 2 - History: Africa has made no meaningful contributions to world history and Western values such as political freedom and democracy are not traditionally African.
False. It was through slavery, which stripped the Africans of their dignity and history, that this myth developed. Africans built numerous ancient cultures, civilizations and empires – enough to fill 100’s of books. Also, Africa was the center of one of the oldest of all civilizations, Egypt, and the ancient Greeks borrowed many of their ideas from this older culture. African civilizations had the same struggle between local autonomy and individuality as ‘western’ societies.
Myth Three – ‘Primitivism’: Africans are primitive in lifestyle, art and technology. Africa has contributed no innovations to the rest of the world.
False. The word primitive is derogatory. What Africans have by way of traditional lifestyles, art and technology is AFRICAN, developed in Africa, for Africans. Western society terms this primitive because it is different to them and, they feel, inferior. Each African society has developed its own lifestyles and technologies to meet its individual needs, according to numerous factors. Similarly art and literature has grown out of the people and geography of the different countries and peoples. Bringing in modern developments, did you know that many newly installed telephone systems in some African cities use communication technologies that are far advanced compared to local those used by American local telephone customers.
Myth Four- Geography: Africa is mostly comprised of jungle and desert.
False. Although Africa does contain the world’s largest region of equatorial forest, the continent has tremendous ecological and geographical diversity. Included are the largest desert in the world, high snowy mountains, tropical forest, grassland, mixed savanna (grasslands and trees), pine forests. Climactically there is literally a world of variation across Africa.
Myth Five- Population: Africa is densely over-populated
False: Africa has marginally more population per square mile than North America. Vast areas of Africa – some as large as North America itself that are almost completely unpopulated. There are nations in Africa where exceptionally high population growth poses serious challenges, but these are not unique to Africa.
We hope you have learned a little more about the real Africa, and will be encouraged to question the theories perpetuated as facts about this great continent.
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